Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Cynda Mexico March 30, 2007
Background about us, this was our 3rd cruise, the first on Norwegian. We are a family of five, my husband and I are in our 40's, our childen are 18, 16, and 12 from Las Vegas Nevada. Our cruise was on the Norwegian Star to the Mexican Riviera with port cities of Acapulco, Zihuataneho/Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. We had two adjoining balcony cabins, 9030/9032.
Embarkation-Very quick, we were pleasantly surprised. We drove to the port, dropped the kids and luggage at the curb about 11 am, parked the car about two rows out, walked back to the curb, staff member took our luggage. We were in line, no kidding, maybe 10 minutes, front desk verified our passport and boarding documents, took our pictures, and we were on the boat by noon.
Ship-The Star is a lovely ship overall, bright and airy Atrium, our favorite places included the Carousel Bar, Aqua restaurant, Versailles restaurant, and the entire walk around the Panorama deck outside. We spent more time on the Panorama deck in a lounge chair, than we did up around the pool. This may have been due to the fact that it was spring break, and the pool was always completely overcrowded. We DID enjoy the pool too, and the jacuzzi's. The food grilled there was our favorite place for lunches each day. The casino is larger than other ships we have been on, good amount of table games as well as slot machines. They also had a few blackjack tables set up around the pool in the afternoons. The overall layout onboard was easy to navigate, but I did notice a couple odd things. First of all, Aqua restaurant, is hidden, and such a shame that you have to hunt for someplace that turns out so nice.(Deck 6, mid ship, behind So Ho and LeBistro) Secondly, the Galleria shops, it seems are an afterthought-at the back of the boat, where you can avoid them altogether quite easily.
Onboard experience-We had a great time on our cruise, especially having the two adjoining balcony rooms. When it was too crowded around ship, we could always retreat to our balcony and still enjoy the fresh air and views. The good, the bad, and the poorly planned: We tried only one of the specialty restaurants-Cagney Steakhouse. Terrific.
We would like to say we tried some of the others, but reservations were a nightmare. They only allow you to book one day in advance, good idea-but, we were informed that to actually 'get' a reservation, we needed to call between 7 and 8 am each day. Well, on vacation, who is up at that hour!?
Apparently, those other people who got 'our' reservations :) No matter, Versailles and Aqua were terrific. We also tried Endless Summer, it was so-so, and the buffet-which I have to review as 'yuck'. Thats probably not fair, I'm sure there were people who thought better of it, but I'm from Vegas, and used to buffet food, so you have to wow me at least a little bit here to get my attention. The kids club/teen club was a nice space, the kids had room for dancing, computers to play on, and room to just hang out. The activities for my sons age group 10-12 yr olds, he wasn't so excited about this trip. He did attend something each day, but not racing to see what the next planned activity might be like he did his previous cruise. Our older two daughters, settled in on a core group of friends after the first day at sea, and always used the teen club as their meeting spot, then kind of planned things on their own as well, always ending up back there at the end of the night when it became more crowded with other kids. *special note, spring break, we were told there were 700 kids on this sailing, 500 of them ages 12 and up.
Teen Club staff, Bethany and Stacey, were both excellent with the kids they were responsible for, and I can't rave enough about them. The staff was actually about 6 different people, but Bethany and Stacey stood out above the rest. We did not try the spa this trip, but did take their tour the first day, and the facility was quite nice. To use the pool and jacuzzi was a fee of $15.00 per day. The fitness center wasn't very big, and didn't have much of an ocean view. The movie theater had one nice feature, and that was the fact that they had more than one feature. The movie changed daily, and popcorn was available just around the corner at the Spinnaker lounge.
Service-Our room stewards did a remarkable job, I have to imagine that the quality was the same thruout the ship. They were at our room to meet us the first day, within about 10 minutes of our arrival. Oh, and I forgot to mention this before, our luggage, ALL OF IT, arrived by the time we were to our room-2 pm. That was a nice surprise. Our stewards, Alicia and Marlon never failed to speak to us, by name if they met us in the hall. They asked about our day, told us about their onboard experience and just seemed genuine and friendly the entire cruise. Service in the restaurants, was absolutely attentive, although because of the freestyle experience, you don't get to know your servers at all, and they are cycled thru to different restaurants all the time. Overall, service was great. One bad experience can sort of over shadow the rest though, so here's the deal: Buy your photos prior to the last day, if you plan to do so. You cannot imagine how many cranky, tired, loud guests were delayed from leaving the ship when we arrived back in Los Angeles. Why? Because they went to the photo gallery that morning to pick out their pictures before leaving. (Myself included) I only wanted one picture, which had just been taken the previous evening. I had $15.00 in my pocket, because of course, the bill for our trip had already been sent to our room. The photo shop said we cannot accept cash here, it must be billed to your room. Oh, ok. Took the photo, got in line to disembark, and when they swiped our cards thru, the staff notified us we had a problem because of a purchase after the close of our bill. Yes, well, we tried to pay cash, they said they can't accept cash.
No, they cannot, you have to go back upstairs to pay for this and settle your account at the front reception desk. The kids and I were sidelined while hubby went back upstairs to settle the bill. We listened as passengers were told one after the other, to step aside and go upstairs to settle their account. It was not pretty. Hubby says the reception staff was courteous and professional, but they didn't really have a system for handling the angry customers. Our final thoughts, this could have been solved easily. The Cruise Director should have made several annoucements the day before, reminding passengers to purchase photos and any last minute items that evening to avoid delays during check out in Los Angeles the next morning.
Shows/Entertainment-We attended the show each evening. The Jean Ann Ryan Company put on three shows, each a bit different from the other. Our favorite was "Band on the Run" with songs from the 70's. The magician was Shawn Farquhar, excellent. There were also a couple shows with the Second City Comedy Club, pretty funny. Stan Sykes was in the Carousel Lounge, we really enjoyed his music, stopped by for a little while each night. Typical entertainment around the pool, hairy legs contest, the not so newlywed game, bingo, kareoke etc.
Port Cities-Acapulco was horribly humid and hot. Take LOTS of water and a hand towel with you we were drenched in about 10 minutes time. We took a tour of city highlights that included the Port of San Diego, Flamingo Hotel, and of course the Cliff Divers at La Quebrada and a little time in the town square for shopping. Good and educational for our kids. Recommended.
Puerto Vallarta-We went to Sea Life Park/Dolphin Discovery. The water park has a couple pools, water slides, a lazy river, and you get to swim with the dolphins. Note-you can pay to go as a spectator rather than swim with the dolphins to save money. We paid full price for the kids, and then about a third of the cost for hubby and I, which allowed us to use the water park and pools but just be photographers for the dolphin swim. Very good experience. Recommended.
Cabo San Lucas-We explored here on our own. We did not take any excursions, we just walked thru the city doing our shopping, and had lunch at the Cabo Wabo Cantina. Nice relaxing day.
Zihuataneho/Ixtapa-We didn't leave the ship during this port. Unfortunately we had a child who wasn't feeling well so we spent the day around the pool, at the movie theater, and in the card/game room onboard.
Overall experience-Would we recommend NCL to others, YES. Would we travel NCL again, YES. I think our preference is away from the freestyle dining experience to the more traditional style, but for us itinerary and the interior design of the ship are most important.